The time had come. My husband, Steve, and I sat curled with Wallace, our Basenji, on the exam room floor at the vet’s office. Wallace had walked with us as a faithful companion for almost sixteen years. We’d waited. Oh, we’d waited, perhaps for almost too long, as his decline, once slow and steady, accelerated over the past couple of weeks. Now, it was time for our final act of love. As he slipped the bonds of earth and walked across the rainbow bridge, we both cried.
Wallace and our early married years were synonymous. We got him at eight weeks old when our marriage was only three months old. I like to joke that we didn’t choose Wallace. He chose Steve. It wasn’t an easy transition. We were completely new to being dog parents. Wallace had separation anxiety that lasted for a month. But gradually, we got used to each other, and he blossomed. During our time together, we learned a lot with him.
We learned how to give love. Dogs can teach us a lot about love because they are so selfless. Wallace loved us completely without condition. He trusted us with his life, especially when we made mistakes as first-time dog parents, the big one being what we call the towel incident. We’d put a towel in his crate. That ended when he tore it up and ate a one-inch by twelve-inch strip of towel which required emergency surgery. With lots of love, he pulled through.
We learned a lot about affection. Wallace loved to give affection as well as love. That came in all sorts of forms, from snuggling with us in bed at night to what we Basenji lovers call the lean. As we scratched his head, he would lean into us as if the sigh and say, “I love that. Keep going.” He accepted knuckle rubs in his ears as well and always loved to curl up against my chest as we both napped.
We learned about how to have fun. Wallace loved to play, especially with his companion, Aspen, who preceded him in death last year. Couch boxing during his younger days was his favorite. When he couch-boxed, he’d stand on his couch and bounce up and down with his front paws. The zany dog smile said it all. He also would do a B-500, where he and Aspen would either race around the house or the yard at top speed. They would also play, play, play.
We learned to hang loose. Even as a puppy, Wallace was an old soul in a young puppy’s body. Nothing ruffled him. He wasn’t high strung, didn’t have a lot of expectations. All he wanted was food, loving, and a good place to lounge and sleep, even in his younger days. We nicknamed him the king of sleep.
We learned to let go. Last year, Wallace, our gentle soul, began declining. He gradually lost his hearing and most of his sight. While he still enjoyed walks, we noticed they became shorter. He slept even more than normal. Steve and I both agonized. When was it time to let him go? Finally, two weeks ago, we knew it was time, and we made that final trip together to the vet’s office.
Wallace, we’ll miss you, my dear friend, as we move into our middle married years. But we know you’re with Aspen, and that you two are playing in fields of green like you did you were younger. May I see you again some day, my sweet canine friend.
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